Supporters of joint child custody are trying again this year to advance a bill in the state legislature. The Shared Parenting Bill would provide guidelines for judges to follow in child custody cases.
Shared parenting bills have failed in previous sessions of the legislature. One of the most vocal opponents of past bills has been the South Dakota Bar Association.
This year lawyers are supporting the Shared Parenting Bill. They say past bills went too far, but the new draft contains big improvements.
I've spoken to many fathers over the years on this issue. They feel South Dakota's system is biased against fathers and encourages long, expensive court battles.
Some people shrug off these men as deadbeat dads who don't want to pay child support. But my experience has been that these are deeply dedicated fathers who feel they and their children were betrayed by a biased and unsympathetic system.
This isn't just an issue for men. More and more women are joining the effort.
Leading Women for Shared Parenting is a new group working to build support for the issue. They say children benefit most when both parents are active and engaged in their lives.
Some women join the effort after witnessing their husbands engaged in lengthy legal battles for custody with an ex-spouse. They see the unfairness toward men inherent in the system.
South Dakota is long overdue in overhauling its custody laws. Good fathers don't become unfit parents merely because they file for divorce.
It's time for the state to move toward shared parenting for the benefit of both children and parents. This year's bill is a big step in the right direciton.
Greg Belfrage is heard mornings 6am-9am on KELO Newstalk 1320 AM / 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.